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Blog: WiFi Experts

10 Important Metrics for Hotspot Performance Testing
Author/Blog Contributor - Dilip Advani, Group Product Manager & Business Development-Wireless Solutions at Fluke Networks
Date: April 27, 2012

Wi-Fi hotspots are, well, hot and have become a huge part of our current technological landscape (you may have read our previous blog on this topic). Customers expect hotspots to be as good or better than today's rapidly improving home Internet. Who hasn't heard of friends or colleagues that cater their trips - or the businesses they frequent (like coffee shops and restaurants) - specifically to a location with the best hotspot service?

There are two parts to every Wi-Fi hotspot service. The first and most obvious is the Wi-Fi component, the ability to use Radio Frequencies (RF) to transmit packets from the client device to the Internet. The second, and just as vital, is the backhaul to the Internet. Wi-Fi system pioneers mistakenly thought the main goal of designing Wi-Fi was the RF coverage, specifically the Received Signal Strength Indicator (RSSI) metric. Though important, the RSSI measurement is not sufficient to ensure today's hotspot performance. It's necessary to measure actual throughput of data, not just RF energy to meet customer expectations.

To help ensure optimal hotspot performance and keep customers happy, here is a list of 10 metrics to test for comprehensive hotspot performance analysis:

  1. RSSI - Received Signal Strength. This is the amount of RF energy received at any given location and time.
  2. Noise - Noise can be captured with a Wi-Fi NIC to show packets flowing via RF in the area. A spectrum analyzer can augment this to see non-modulated RF from other potentially interfering devices.
  3. SNR - Signal to Noise Ratio. SNR is the difference between the RSSI and Noise floor. The higher the ratio the better, and a higher SNR is an indicator of potentially higher data rates, meaning more clients able to share the same frequency without causing interference.
  4. 802.11 Association - This is the minimum requirement that shows connectivity between the device and the rest of the LAN. The BSSID, or the MAC Address of the Access Point connected to, is used to help move packets to and from a wireless network.
  5. DHCP - Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol. Devices must have IP address information for specific subnets they are connected to in order to transmit packets. Quick, repeatable DHCP response that includes Default Gateway, DNS and Subnet Mask information is a difficult but necessary requirement.
  6. PING: PING is a standard Internetworking tool that shows how long it takes to get to a site on the Internet. The lower the PING times, the quicker the access.
  7. TraceRoute: TraceRoute is another standard Internetworking tool that shows the total number of hops via routers on the Internet from the current location to the designated target.
  8. FTP: File Transfer Protocol. FTP is used to send large chunks of data to and from an FTP server. Testing FTP simulates a large file download and is a way to test throughput.
  9. HTTP: Testing HTTP file transfers is a way to force a client to send large amounts of data to a server on the Internet and capture flow statistics.
  10. Multimedia: Multimedia downloads and streaming like Netflix, Pandora and Spotify have huge popularity among hotspot customers. Hotspot testing should include simulation of multimedia streaming.

Testing for all of these items piecemeal can be a real pain. The best approach would be to run all of these throughput tests simultaneously, putting the largest loads on both wireless and wired parts of the hotspot. Fortunately for you, Fluke Networks' AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer PRO combines all of the test features needed into one tool so you can analyze and evaluate a combination of wireless and wired tools, and dramatically simplifies the process.

AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer PRO provides a simple One-Touch Connection Test that does a comprehensive test using 802.11 Association, Ping, Trace, FTP, HTTP, and Multimedia testing across multiple locations in a simultaneous manner. With full report capability it makes the job of providing a written report to customer or staff much easier.

For a complete overview of Fluke Networks' AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer PRO, please click here.

 
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Blog Contributor
Chris Roeckl

Dilip Advani is the Product Manager for the AirMagnet Mobile products. Prior to AirMagnet, he has worked as a technology reviewer for Network Computing magazine and as a Networking Engineer for Citibank India. He also holds the prestigious Certified Wireless Networking Expert certification (CWNE#43).

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